This week in #SpottedInJewishDC: we talked to Alex Levin, renowned DC pastry chef at restaurants like Tico, Alta Strada, Casolare and the Riggsby. To ring in the Jewish New Year, Alex is set to debut DC’s most — and only? — mouthwatering Rosh Hashanah pop-up bakeshop at Alta Strada complete with honey raisin challah, apple-butter honey cake, apple pie, rugelach…need we say more?
Oh, and NBD or anything but as a GatherDC insider, you can get 5% off your order with promo code NOSH.
Allie: How did you come up with the idea to create a Rosh Hashanah pop-up bakeshop?
Alex: It is a dream come true to be able to bring delicious food into people’s homes for the holidays. Last summer, I was filled with so many memories of my beloved grandmother; I decided to honor her memory by bringing many of her delicious treats that we made together into the homes of as many people as I could find. With Alta Strada having so many wonderful neighborhood regulars, we thought it would be the perfect spot to host the pop-up.
The first pop-up, in 2016, was wildly popular. I was very tickled to see one of my challah breads and honey cakes at a table at a home that I was graciously invited to – a coincidence really because I came as someone’s “plus one.” I saw how much of an impact I was able to have – in action. This year, I decided to try and make an even bigger impact with a larger offering and continue the tradition going forward.
I am so grateful that I work as a chef today and am supported by restaurants that allow me to participate in a broad scale in the holiday feasts of so many people.
Allie: Tell me about some of your favorite desserts that the pop-up is offering.
Alex: It’s so hard to pick favorites! I love challah – I love rugelach – I love apple pie – I love apple butter honey cake — but the newest noshis the hazelnut chocolate crunch rugelach. It’s made with Nutella and Dark Chocolate Crunchy Pearls from Valrhona. It’s pretty fabulous…
Allie: How can I get my challah once I order it?
Alex: For all orders, you can have everything delivered to your home on Wednesday 9/20 in the afternoon (if you live within the beltway), or you can stop by Alta Strada DC (465 K St. NW) on Tuesday, 9/19 or Wednesday, 9/20 from 3-6PM. Just visit the website for details!
Allie: What is your favorite Jewish dessert?
Alex: Hands down my favorite Jewish dessert is Rugelach. I hope that everyone will find my take it on here to be special and delicious!
Allie: What inspired you to become a pastry chef and start baking Jewish food?
Alex: My grandmother spent Friday afternoons with me every week when I was 4 years old and until I was a teenager. She prepared lavish feasts every Shabbat and Yom Tov (the Jewish High Holidays), and I was by her side helping her and learning from her. She instilled a special love of food in me, while also cultivating an unusually beautiful bond between grandmother and grandson. I feel that all that I do today is a testament to her memory and our relationship.
Allie: You must get pretty busy running this pop-up and making pastries at top restaurants across the city…how do you like to spend your free time?
Alex: The musician Marc Anthony said “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Changing careers 6 years ago enabled me to turn what I do into what I love. That being said, I prioritize making time for my family and friends, love the restaurant scene, my gym routine, and traveling around the world when I can. I am grateful to live in Washington, DC which is so rich in culture, entertainment, and politics. I hope to settle down one day with a special guy and build a family together.
Allie: Who is your Jewish food role model?
Alex: Besides my grandmother, Martha Hadassah Nadich, I constantly am inspired by my mother, Shira Nadich Levin…and also icons like Joan Nathan and Bonnie Benwick both of whom are friends that I adore. I also love my other Jewish buddies in the food world in Washington, DC – particularly Nick Wiseman (owner, DGS Delicatessen).
Allie: Is there a discount code our GatherDC readers can use when they order the baked goods?
Alex: Input promo code NOSH for 5% off your order.
NOTE: The foods prepared for this pop-up bakeshop are not certified Kosher.
Photos courtesy of Alex Levin.
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